As the COVID-19 pandemic remains wildly disruptive to organizations, human experience management (HXM) professionals are rethinking how to provide the support employees need to be productive and grow in a very changed world.

In a video broadcast at SAPPHIRE NOW Converge, HXM experts and other business leaders shared their perspectives on managing talent for the greater good during this unpredictable time.

Putting People at Center of Business

Jill Popelka, who became president of SAP SuccessFactors just a few weeks before the pandemic crisis emerged, shared her top three HXM lessons from personal experience. These revolved around having an ongoing dialogue with employees and customers.

“First, we learned that the human connection is central to success – even when it’s virtual,” she said. “Second, HR is central to business needs, and that’s is absolutely vital that we take care of our employees. And last but not least, business continuity and health and safety are critical. We have to get all three of these things right to survive this pandemic and have continued business success.”

Popelka saw HXM become more relevant than ever as organizations grappled with the changeable nature of the pandemic. “It’s all about putting people at the center of your business so that we understand what they need,” she explained. “As their needs evolve, we can stay in front of that [and] continue to provide what they need to stay inspired and productive in their everyday work. When you create great experiences for people, the business results will follow.”

Creating Opportunity from Disruption

Every crisis is an opportunity, and human resource leaders have discovered this is exponentially true when it comes to managing people during a pandemic. Looking at the bright side of remote working, Mary Kelly, a retired commander of the U.S. Navy and chief executive officer (CEO) at Productive Leaders, expects companies to tap talent from a much broader global playing field. She also points to differences in managing at-home work performance.

“HR professionals have to make sure leaders and supervisors are assessing remote workers based on the results they are providing,” Kelly said. “Before, if someone went into the workplace and they were cheerful, happy, and charismatic, we tended to give them higher marks because we liked them. Remote working is a great equalizer.”

To adapt in synch with post-pandemic working norms, HXM teams will also need new ways of supporting employees and managers over time. For example, decreased in-person contact and fluctuating safety measures will likely mean less business travel and different office space configurations – not to mention more IT and cybersecurity challenges. Through it all, organizations need to help figure out how to make business secure for people wherever and however they work.

“Now is a wonderful opportunity, as forward-thinking global businesses, to realize that every detail of our business is now on the table as a variable,” Kelly said. “We have to help people adapt to the new reality and realign our business in a way that really serves our customers and clients. We have rethink what’s normal for our businesses as we change into a more sanitized, safer way of working and bring people back into the workforce.”

Mentoring Builds New Leaders

Looking ahead to the future workforce, Kelly saw organizations embarking on a full-scale reexamination of past norms. She divided the major priorities into five buckets: people, technology, processes, regulations, and training.

“Moving forward, if we choose to look at this as an opportunity, with people development and training in synch with processes and technology, this can be a great way to rethink business in a clever, smart way that will take us into the future,” Kelly remarked. “As HXM leaders, we’re mostly concerned about attracting, recruiting, retraining, mentoring, managing, and evolving our thinking – and developing our current and future leaders.”

Indeed, many organizations have already adopted innovative approaches to develop the next generation of leaders, specifically around mentoring. For example, more than 1,000 customers are using the intelligent mentoring offering within SAP SuccessFactors Succession & Development. Powered by an intelligent algorithm, the solution matches mentors and mentees instantly based on factors such as skills, competencies, job title, department, manager, location, and personal preferences.

“Now more than ever, it is essential that all employees, especially those who are underrepresented, have equal opportunities to advance their careers,” Popelka said. “By focusing on continuous employee skill development and relationship-building across departments, organizations can create opportunities for every employee’s growth to progress into a leadership position, helping the business better adapt to change.”

If the pandemic proves anything about business resiliency, it is that with the right mindset and technologies, HXM can deliver results even in the most unpredictable circumstances.

Follow me: @smgaler